Neot Smadar & A Desert Kibbutz Inspired Breakfast

The first time I visited Kibbutz Neot Smadar was in the spring of 2015.

My husband had just ended his mandatory legal internship in Tel Aviv and headed south by himself to spend some much-needed downtime at his own beloved kibbutz, Samar, where he lived for a few years after the army. Samar is a Kibbutz in the Arava valley, just north of Eilat. It was founded in 1976 by a group of young people and is one of the only kibbutzim today that maintains a lifestyle consistent with the original socialist ideals of the Kibbutz movement. Samar has actually been described as an “anarchic kibbutz” - as their website describes, their guiding philosophy is “From each according to his ability and each according to his need.” Since moving to Israel a few years ago, I have personally visited Samar a handful of times. On my first visit, we spent the early part of the morning picking dates and the rest of the day digging-out the sand dunes to build a swimming pool.

So back in the spring of 2015, Ofir was spending some time at Samar and I decided to meet him there for the weekend. Around that time, our good friends from Jerusalem had decided to leave their jobs and search for a more alternative lifestyle. This journey brought them to a different kibbutz in the Arava: Neot Smadar. They were there around the same time Ofir was at Samar and so we decided to pay them (and their new baby) a visit.

We made a plan to meet at the Pundak: a roadside vegetarian restaurant and organic shop that carries all of the Kibbutz’s products (cheese, yogurt, wine, dates, olives and jams). The place was full of cyclists and families from surrounding villages and kibbutzim enjoying their day. We sat in the garden and drank delicious coffee, ate organic goat’s milk ice cream, marvelled at the baby, and talked about life.

Cheese Plate at the Pundak, Kibbutz Neot Smadar

Cheese Plate at the Pundak, Kibbutz Neot Smadar

Next, our friends offered to give us a tour of the kibbutz. We started with the Art Center: a unique and well-known structure that is unlike anything I (or most people, for that matter) have ever seen. It is a huge, pink building that was designed and constructed by the people of Neot Smadar over a 15 year period. Ofir and I walked around this structure, climbing all the way to the top tower where you can see expansive views of the desert.

The Art Center at Kibbutz Neot Smadar

The Art Center at Kibbutz Neot Smadar

Next, we toured the vineyards and orchards; visited the goat dairy and the manmade lake. We met some of the kibbutz members who kindly invited us to join them for dinner. This was a surreal experience, as the meals on the kibbutz are all eaten in silence. Actually, I have to admit that I loved this concept. There was no pressure to make small talk, which I have a hard time with. The food was delicious, fresh , colourful and healthy.

After dinner, Ofir and I said goodbye to our friends, walked out to the main road and hitched a ride to Samar.

When I started Matana, I knew that I had to send products from Neot Smadar and to tell our customers about this incredible, unique and peaceful place in the desert. So I went back about a year after my first visit, this time to meet with the people in charge of sales. My friends were still living there and so I drove down from Tel Aviv for the weekend. We arrived in time for lunch and were lucky to enjoy a beautiful meal of fresh salad and warm vegetable soup. That afternoon, we walked around the kibbutz grounds and spent time with the goats. After dinner, we sat outside drinking tea and talking with some of the members and volunteers.

Goat Selfie, Neot Smadar

Goat Selfie, Neot Smadar

Breakfast the next morning, eaten in silence, was a large bowl of hot oatmeal served with silan (date syrup) and chopped dates - both of which were included in the last Matana shipment. There are so many ways to use silan (i.e.: as a substitute for sugar, maple or honey in baking), but I wanted to personally share my favourite way to use this product, inspired by this cozy, hearty winter breakfast in the desert.

Recipe for oatmeal with Silan (2 servings):

  • warm 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a small pot

  • add one cup of whole or steel cut oats

  • sauté oats in the pot for 1 min

  • add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup almond milk, so that oats appear soaked

  • mix-in 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen berries

  • add pinch of salt, teaspoon of cinnamon and 2 chopped dates

  • bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to low

  • simmer uncovered for 3-5 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally

  • remove from heat and let oats cool slightly

  • separate into two bowls & drizzle teaspoon of Neot Smadar silan (or more if you have a sweet tooth)

warm oatmeal sweetened with Silan from Neot Smadar

warm oatmeal sweetened with Silan from Neot Smadar

Emily Berg